K Is For Kenner, Karma, Korea, KB Toys & Ken – A To Z Of The Toy Business
Kenner is best known for being the company who introduced Star Wars toys to the market, producing more than 100 unique figures and selling more than 300 million units between 1978 and 1985. Today nearly every family movie has licensed merchandise including toys. Star Wars started all that. While it seems an obvious opportunity today, back in the 1970s Mego (the prevailing figure toy company of the time) turned down the opportunity to produce toys based on the Star Wars franchise (possibly the biggest mistake in toy business history?).
Kenner stopped producing Star Wars toys after the initial trilogy of film releases faded away, but restarted again in 1995. Kenner also brought to market other iconic toys aside from Star Wars including Easy Bake Oven and Spirograph. Kenner Parker was acquired by Tonka in 1987, which in turn was purchased by Hasbro in 1991. Star Wars figures remain a key product line for Hasbro through to this day, making Star Wars toys one of the most important, commercially successful and iconic toy ranges of all time.
The toy industry is often a surprisingly small place. If you operate by screwing people over, it tends to be quite likely that you will get some kind of karmic payback. But also, if you are good to the people you meet over the years around the toy trade shows and in between, then you will build many lasting fruitful business relationships and friendships.
Korea is not normally an area of focus for toy & game companies, but with a population about the size of England, and with an advanced economy, consumer products sales in Korea can be strong. Obviously, there are some significant language and cultural barriers to doing business there, but nevertheless, for companies looking to grow their export sales, Korea deserves consideration.
KB Toys was a leading U.S. specialist toy store chain, which at one point in the 1990s had more than 1,300 stores. The company originally started as a wholesale ‘candy’ store back in 1922, and the chain lasted for just under 90 years, being in business for longer than Toys R Us in the USA. As such KB Toys was a pivotal player in the growth of the toy business, and many still mourn the loss of the 2nd best known toy specialist retail chain.
Behind every great woman is a great man! Ken became part of Barbie’s world since 2 years after her own launch in the market. Although the pair separated for a spell in the noughties, Ken has been known and loved by generations of children. He also appeared in the third instalment of the Toy Story franchise playing a baddy. Not a lot of people know that Ken was named after the son of Mattel founders Ruth & Elliott Handler.
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Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business: https://playingatbusiness.libsyn.com/